If I had a dating profile sophomore year in college, the ‘about me’ section would look a little something like this:
I enjoy running, hanging out with friends, going to movies, and social media stalking myself.
If you are thinking to yourself, “ew the author of this piece is absolutely full of herself,” I ask that you take a step back and reflect. If you are a millennial and claim to have never gone through this phase- you’re either lying or not very involved in the digital sphere. If you aren’t a millennial, I understand your abhorrent reaction, but unfortunately many of us are like this. As an ex-self stalker, I thought I would be a qualified analyst for this pastime: what draws people to it, what feelings self-stalking evokes; and what the end goal is.
To start this case study off we will look at the tendencies I had as a self-stalker. Everyone glances through his/her Facebook and Instagram feeds occasionally out of boredom. When I say self-stalker, this is absolutely not what I am talking about. I am talking about people who edit and re-edit their photos and wait until a strategic point in the day to post the photos to optimize likes. Self-stalkers will post pictures and look through them multiple times an hour for up to a week after they have posted the photos. They are neurotically looking at their pictures to yes, see likes and the public’s reception of the post. But I found, at least in my case, that I just adored looking at myself in these perfectly crafted photos. The strategically posed and edited shots gave me the exact image I wanted to be broadcasting to the outside world.
Self-stalkers are the people who have to take pictures every three steps when they are out with their friends. Hangouts are half about human bonding and half about the photo-op. Girls always say that they don’t dress up for boys- they dress to impress the other girls. But self-stalkers dress to impress the other girls they are around along with the 1500 other people they are social media friends with. Social media fabulousness is competitive in the way that trying to get good grades or the best internships are. There is always someone better therefore you should never stop striving for improvement.
Lets cut to now: It takes me months to upload the 10 pictures I remembered to take at a collection of events. Stalking myself on social media is something I do maybe once every week or two, and it typically occurs during a particularly boring class. In fact, I arguably get on Facebook now to look at the trending news stories and scan the People magazine posts down my timeline. This being said, for Facebook to go from a self-stalking platform to a news site that I utilize when bored, something major changed, right? Correct.
Now onto what changed (this is the saddest part of the entire article). I finally have a life and a group of friends I am content with. When all of my Facebook friends post their fabulous #college pictures, I’m not thinking about how that was the Friday night that I stayed in because I couldn’t find anyone to go out with. When my friends post pictures of get-togethers or parties I wasn’t invited to, then its no big deal because I was probably doing something equally as fun. Or if I wasn’t, I am doing fun things and hanging out with friends enough to not be terribly upset when one night doesn’t work out. I think we all feel an immense pressure to come off as perfect, so when things aren’t perfect, social media is the perfect way to “fix” the problem- at least to the outside world.
There is absolutely, for me at least, an inverse relationship between projecting a fabulous imagery and feeling fabulous. Social media has created a pressure to be perfect that was not there before the dawn of digital. The only way I am really comfortable with not promoting my “great” life via social media, is when it actually is great. I spent an hour getting ready for my birthday dinner this year and didn’t take a single picture. Because I am constantly doing (what I consider to be) cool things and have friends who take pictures, my profile is somewhat interesting despite the lack of attention I give it. But for some reason scanning back through the photos and comments doesn’t hold that much appeal or interest anymore.
In writing this article I have to attribute to my decline of stalking and increase of social life to a few situational factors as well. Most people really cement their friend groups and therefore, social lives, by senior year despite what everyone’s Facebook pictures depict. The “it” groups of girls have halved in size and many of freshman/sophomore year best friends hardly hang out anymore. This is all a product of figuring out who you are and what you care about.
The ironic thing about this article is the fact that in a few months I will be starting a new life in a new city. It will probably take me another 1-3 years to find my “people” and activities I enjoy. I can’t predict whether I will revert to self-stalking or if this is something I have outgrown entirely. Millennial or not, I think we can all admit that there is a real need to “look” great to the outside world, which we oftentimes think will compensate for when we aren’t feeling great. It certainly doesn’t fix anything internally, but I suppose we self-stalk because it takes the edge off. Only time will tell if I have truly grown out of this phase with all of the transitions that lie ahead!